OUR editorial on Easter Sunday was fittingly joyful and triumphal. We congratulated DOST-ASTI, the UP Diliman people involved in the great project and, of course, the team of Filipino scientists working on the DIWATA microsatellite project, whose DIWATA-1 was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, on Holy Wednesday, March 23.
The launch of Diwata-1 “is the culmination of a research program of the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) begun in 2014 to develop the necessary local expertise in space technology and allied fields in science and engineering. The PhilMicrosat Program is being implemented by several departments in the University of the Philippines-Diliman and DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).”
Assembled by nine young Filipino engineers stationed in two universities that are partners in the project, Tohoku and Hokkaido Universities, Diwata-1 carries four specialized cameras for various purposes including capabilities in imaging weather patterns, agricultural productivity and high resolution imaging of the country’s land and water resources. The satellite is expected to be in orbit for approximately 20 months and will be imaging the Philippines twice daily. Images from Diwata-1 will be received in a Subic facility, and later on also in the UP Diliman Microsatellite Research and Instructional Facility that is currently under construction.
It is a wonderful achievement. And there’s more to come with DIWATA-II.
DIWATA-1 scientist complains on Facebook
But it saddens us to share our dismay after reading the statement to media released by AGHAM, the society of patriotic Filipino scientists, yesterday.
Here are the excerpts:
“Scientist group AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People – expresses support to the engineers who took part in the development of DIWATA-1 microsatellite but condemns the government’s ill treatment of the engineers when they demanded due recognition for their work.
“The Diwata-1 Satellite is a major breakthrough for our country as it will provide an improvement in the ‘weather detection and forecasting, disaster risk management, detecting agricultural growth patterns, monitoring of the forest cover, mining, protection of cultural and historical sites, and the territorial borders of the Philippines.
“ ‘With the country experiencing a worst case of food crisis because of El Niño, we are in need of more scientists to provide a science-based approach to articulate natural and man-made disasters to the vulnerable communities and to institutionalize community-based climate resilient technologies helping the vulnerable sectors cope with the impact of extreme weather events such as El Niño and La Niña,’ said Feny Cosico, secretary general of AGHAM.
“ ‘Despite the invaluable role that they play, Filipino scientists and engineers are often undervalued and are also victims of state neglect as reflected by one of the Diwata engineer’s Facebook post.
“ ‘Engr. Paolo Espiritu’s Facebook account regarding their experience in Japan when they were sent to build the microsatellite and how the government turned a deaf ear to their demands regarding their status in the contract they signed, are reflections of the government’s lack of sympathy and disinterest to protect the welfare of scientists and engineers in the country,’ added Cosico.”
“ ‘Engr. Espiritu laments how they were used as mere ‘tools in their [government]projects, [with]no more value than the science equipment and apparatus.” Amidst the harsh working conditions, the engineers did not receive any compensation for the microsatellite since the Department of Science and Technology incorporated the project as part of their space program scholarship.
“ ‘Given the low number of scientists and engineers currently involved in research and development work, the government must ensure the security of tenure, decent living wages, and conducive working conditions to abate the continuous brain drain in the country. Without these, our science and technology (S&T) workers will continue to seek better opportunities abroad or in other career fields,’ said Cosico.”
We wholeheartedly agree.